On Devolution 2.0 as aid to reelection

While the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Catanduanes Chapter welcomes with pleasure the impending implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mandanas case that would increase the local government units’ Internal Revenue Allocations in 2022, an in-depth view of its impact on the LGUs should prove sobering for local executives.

True, the LGUs would finally get their due as far as Section 284 of Republic Act 7160 is concerned, with provincial, city and municipal governments set to receive 40 percent of total national internal revenue taxes collected by the national government, instead of just 40 percent of the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s collection.

The additional IRA, however, comes with new responsibilities, as the LGUs will have to prepare for the transfer to their offices of additional devolved functions, services and facilities pursuant to National Budget Memorandum No. 138 dated last Jan. 6, 2021.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has said that LGUs which will be receiving a “substantial increase” in IRAs beginning next year are expected to be responsible for the funding and delivery of the activities which have been devolved to them under Republic Act 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991 and other subsequent laws.

Covered by the full devolution is the Local Infrastructures Services of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which will concentrate on the construction and maintenance of national roads and bridges by 2022.

Pursuant to the SC ruling, provincial government will be responsible for provincial roads and bridges, inter-municipal waterworks, drainage and sewerage, flood control and reclamation projects.

Municipalities will cover municipal roads and bridges, small water impounding projects and similar projects, rainwater collectors and water supply systems, seawalls, dikes, drainage and sewerage, flood control, as well as facilities related to general hygiene and sanitation.

On the other hand, barangays will be responsible for the maintenance of barangay roads and bridges and water supply systems; infrastructure facilities such as multi-purpose hall, multi-purpose pavement, plaza, sports center, and other similar facilities.

The devolved activities are aside from certain functions to be transferred to LGUs by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the National Youth Commission (NYC).

Doubtless, many local chief executives are now rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of the 2022 shower of extra funding, particularly the untaxed commissions that will come with the multimillion-peso infrastructure projects and the chance to pack new vacant position with their own loyal supporters.

In the remaining 10 months before the election year arrives, these LCEs should take the time to meditate on the Almighty’s message in Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Or, if their minds are so cluttered with the many things they are tasked to do, turn to the proverb popularized by Stan Lee’s Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

There is no question that many of our chief executives have proven themselves to be responsible officials, but the point is that it is only starting Jan. 1, 2022 that the LGUs will be able to create new positions to handle the devolved functions, as it is only then that the funding would be available.

Valid is the fear that these devolved functions, and the programs, projects and activities that would spring from them, would be utilized in aid of reelection.

Expect then that the 2022 campaign would be bruising and more expensive, as the stakes are higher compared to previous elections.

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